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White House Signals Support for Speedier LNG Export Approval

A bill to speed approvals for U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects might get the backing of the Obama administration, with a bit of modification, according to Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz reached out to Hoeven on Wednesday about the legislation, Hoeven's office confirmed. Under the current bill, the Department of Energy would be required to decide whether export applications were in the national interest within 45 days of an application being filed with FERC. It now takes up to six months.

Moniz "has some things he would like to incorporate," Hoeven told reporters Wednesday. Among the revisions requested by Moniz is a change to the 45-day clock so that it begins after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has completed an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposed LNG facility.

"If I can work something out on that, he'll endorse the bill," Hoeven said of Moniz, according to his office. "But it still has to be acceptable to industry" and the senator would be negotiating with Moniz and energy industry supporters. "If I get them both, then I think we'll pass it in the Congress,” Hoeven said. It should be "no problem."

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources was scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday (see Daily GPINov. 10). However, Hoeven pulled S 2638, the Natural Gas Export Certainty Act of 2014, from committee markup, which now will take it up for consideration when the next Congress is in session.

An EIS is required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and for LNG facilities, they often take months to complete. However, with an approved EIS, financial backers would have more assurances that a project would proceed. On the other hand, critics argue that a lengthy EIS process could discourage customers from signing export contracts.

Hoeven's bill is considered less stringent than a similar bill that passed the House, HR 6, which gives the Energy Department 30 days to decide on an export project following the conclusion of a NEPA review of the LNG facilities. It would also require public disclosure of LNG export destinations.(see Daily GPIJune 24).

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